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Cantonese memories

Jovi Ho
Jovi Ho • 5 min read
Cantonese memories
Ng showcases a cornerstone of heritage cooking: that of nudging simple ingredients into the spotlight.
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Yan’s head chef Ng Sen Tio draws on memories of his first culinary apprenticeship for a limited edition menu celebrating the Cantonese restaurant’s fifth anniversary

As we approach the end of a tumultuous year for the F&B sector, Yan celebrates its fifth birthday in a modest but triumphant fashion, with a limited edition anniversary menu offering a hopeful return to pre-pandemic times.

With its choice location and well-heeled clientele, some might say Yan inspires confidence for the year ahead. The upscale Cantonese restaurant sits atop the National Gallery Singapore, with a view of the surrounding buildings in the civic district peeking out over its rooftop skyline.

Similarly, the food bodes well for things to come. Now a year into his role at the helm of the restaurant, Yan’s head chef Ng Sen Tio returns to treasured memories from his first culinary apprenticeship in his teenage years, refined over three decades of experience at various Chinese restaurants across the island.

What ties this menu together is his attention to detail. From the light drizzle of soy sauce in the scrambled eggs, elevated by the inclusion of sauteed crayfish, to the finely minced raw garlic sitting atop a mound of egg noodles, Ng showcases a cornerstone of heritage cooking: that of nudging simple ingredients into the spotlight.

These humble ingredients, like the tiny white sesame seeds that lend a toasted aroma to the handmade sweet egg twists, may never earn star billing or be mentioned in dish titles. But subtle as they may be, they do so much for the cuisine; bringing out the earthiness of Brazilian mushrooms in a double-boiled soup, for example, or infusing depth into a broth that highlights a prized cod fillet.

We start with the Double-boiled Brazilian Mushroom and Chicken Soup, a large, comforting bowl of dried sea whelk, chicken, lean pork meat, dried scallops, and Chinese yam.

Using Brazilian mushrooms may sound puzzling in a Chinese restaurant, but the red mushroom is actually grown in Yunnan, the border of southwestern China. Blanched chicken and pork are added to a fresh pot of water, then brewed for three hours with the prized mushrooms.

Eggs front the second course, with the humble ingredient paired with premium seafood. With its bold, wok-kissed flavour, the Sautéed Crayfish Scrambled Egg with Cauliflower is inspired by homely fare found in fishing villages by the sea, where seafood is usually enjoyed with everyday ingredients.

The Taiwanese cauliflower, also known as fioretto cauliflower or flowering cauliflower, is sweeter and more tender than regular cauliflower, with its delicate florets offering some bite to the silky dish without distracting from the crayfish.

As the centrepiece of the five courses, the Poached Cod Fish with Daikon and Luffa offers a nostalgic pairing of ingredients once popular in Guangzhou and Hong Kong. According to Ng, however, this delicacy is rarely seen in contemporary Cantonese restaurants.

Ng learned a variation of this dish from his first mentor in the 1970s, who taught him how to steam a whole fish with waxed duck meat and fermented beancurd. With both chicken and pork stock, the sinful broth is kept bright with the waxed duck and fermented beancurd.

Steamed then poached, the cod fish is impossibly delicate, yielding immediately between chopsticks and slices of white radish and blanched luffa gourd. Perhaps the ingredients are unusual, but why this exquisite dish has fallen out of favour among today’s restaurateurs is beyond me.

The menu’s choice of staple plays on noodles all Singaporeans would be familiar with. Expertly blanched and tossed, the Braised Soya Chicken with Egg Noodles sets itself apart, with toppings of black vinegar, soy sauce, minced parsley and minced raw garlic, instead of being doused in the various chilli sauces favoured by the local palate.

Braised for 30 minutes, the soya sauce chicken carries with it the quintessential aromatics: dark soya sauce, liquorice root, black cardamom, Chinese angelica root, star anise and cinnamon sticks. This, thankfully, is one traditional dish that has stood the test of time.

Closing the meal is the Chilled Mango Cream topped with Vanilla Ice Cream and Oats served in Coconut, accompanied by traditional handmade Sweet Egg Twists.

As its name suggests, the signature dessert by Yan features many elements, served in a large coconut. But the focus is on the egg twists, a Hong Kong snack enjoyed during the Lunar New Year festivities. Flour and dough are kneaded to form a stiff dough, with the process repeated over two nights for proofing and gluten formation. After deep-frying, the twists are coated in caramel and sesame seeds, all while retaining their soft, fluffy interior.

Enjoy the comforting, nostalgic flavours of Cantonese classics with Yan’s 5th Anniversary set menu. Available till Nov 22, the five-course set menu, which includes a glass of red or white wine each, is priced at $98++ per person.

With safe distancing measures in place, Yan currently seats up to 75 diners with three private dining rooms available.


#05-02 National Gallery Singapore

1 St Andrew’s Road Singapore 178957

Contact: Telephone: (65) 6384 5585

Email: [email protected]


Operating hours (daily):

Lunch: 11.30am to 2.30pm

Dinner: 6pm to 10.30pm

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